Moving Beyond Labels

Every gay person I met told me they had recognized it at a very young age—I hadn’t…

Sara Colopy‘s coming out revealed that it’s not how we got here that matters—It’s the love we find along the way from our family, friends—and ourselves.

Am I gay? Am I bisexual? Or am I straight and just really confused? These questions consumed my every thought just a little over four years ago. It’s almost surreal to think that such a short time ago, I was in the middle of a quickly fading marriage with the man I thought I’d spend the rest of my life with.

I grew up in Zanesville, a small city in east-central Ohio on the edge of the Appalachian region of the state. I once thought that Zanesville was a great place to grow up. It was slow-moving, safe and full of good-hearted people. As a child, I didn’t recognize the rampant prejudice among the locals. People commonly talked about driving through the “colored” part of town, and when The Birdcage was released, my own relatives laughed about the “fairies” in the movie.

It’s no wonder that I didn’t even consider that I might be bisexual or gay until I was 25 years old. It’s actually ironic that the same place I thought had protected my years of youth actually sheltered me from discovering who I was. I never denied my feelings for women. In fact, I hadn’t thought about it at all. You have to know you have a closet in order to be in it—I had never even walked past the door…

Sure I was a bit of a “tomboy” growing up—I’d come home every day covered in dirt from playing in the woods, and my parents had to hold me down to get a dress on me – I could (and probably still can) throw an impressive tantrum. However, I always enjoyed the company of the opposite sex and had boyfriends regularly from the time I was in first grade until I met my husband.

Several clues did exist had I been looking for them. Many of my girlfriends, I realize now, I felt strong intimate feelings toward—much stronger than people usually have for their friends. However, I never recognized these feelings for what they were. By the time I was in high school, my family had moved to Wisconsin. I went to undergraduate and veterinary school at UW-Madison and was finally exposed to people with rich, diverse backgrounds. I was intrigued by my gay and lesbian classmates and often gravitated to them out of pure fascination. I was deeply in love with my husband (whom I had met in veterinary school) but never felt comfortable with myself when we would go out with other straight couples. The conversation and lifestyle seemed so foreign and unnatural.

When we moved to North Carolina for my internship, the stress of our busy lives took a toll on our marriage. There is a large LGBT community in Raleigh, and it was in the midst of my turmoil that I began to discover the person inside myself I had never met before. Two women, both lesbians, befriended me and became my support system. I became captivated by their lifestyle and the way that I felt when I was in their world. For the first time in my entire life, I truly felt content in my surroundings.

My first relationship with a woman was a jolt to my system. Although I experienced these amazing feelings of excitement and intimacy, I was too obsessed with understanding the events of my life that had led up to this point. I wanted to know whether these feelings I had for women had led to the destruction of my marriage, or if the destruction of my marriage had led to the feelings I was experiencing now. Every gay person I met told me they had recognized it at a very young age—I hadn’t…

I returned to Madison for my residency and tried to hold onto a long distance relationship with my first girlfriend. However, my fixation with defining my life turned into severe depression. I needed time on my own to deal with my grief and sort out my sexuality, and so I ended the relationship. I came out to my parents and sister shortly after moving back, the hardest part of which was just mustering up the courage to do it. All of my family and close friends were more supportive than I could have hoped for, and with time, I let go of my obsession with labeling myself. I realized that I didn’t need to understand exactly why things had happened the way that they had, nor did I need to categorize myself in order to find happiness. I know now that I fall in love with people for who they are, and although I feel much more of an intimate connection with women, I believe I’m probably just floating around somewhere in the middle the Kinsey scale along with most other people.

Three years ago, I met and fell in love with an amazing woman – my partner, Robin. In July, we celebrated our one-year anniversary of the vows we spoke at the peak of Whistler Mountain. Through time, I have become an active member of the LGBT community in Madison and am appreciative of organizations like the Madison Gay Hockey Association for allowing me to meet wonderful friends and people I consider my family. Although my life was quite rocky for awhile, I really believe that everything we experience in life contributes to the people we become. I am thankful for the course my life has taken, as I can’t imagine a life without the deep satisfaction and happiness I now know is possible.